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Thoroughly Muddled McTaggart

Or How to Abuse Gauge Freedom to Generate Metaphysical Monstrosities

Tim Maudlin
With a Response by John Earman

Philosophers' Imprint <> Volume 2, No. 4 August 2002 © 2002 Tim Maudlin and John Earman

Just when the hubbub over the infamous hole argument seemed to have died down, and you thought it was safe go back into the placid pool of classical GTR (away from the white-water rapids of quantum gravity), John Earman has conjured up yet another monster to trouble poor old Einstein.1 This time, a sprinkling of the magic powder of the constrained Hamiltonian formalism has been employed to resurrect the decomposing flesh of McTaggart, who intones that the GTR (yes, the plain old vanilla GTR) implies that "no genuine physical magnitude countenanced in GTR changes over time" (p. 6), i.e., that if the GTR is complete, we not only live in a block universe, but the block is "frozen", with no real physical quantities changing. I hope to drive a stake through the heart of the undead McTaggart and end this new rampage before it has begun. I choose the image of driving a stake through the heart with some care. There is much in this paper, especially in the latter sections, which will be of considerable use to philosophers of physics. Professor Earman has, as usual, mastered quite a lot of mathematical physics that would be beyond the grasp of most of us, and has done us the great favor of reviewing many technically demanding programs that are of especial interest to philosophers of physics. But the motor of this project is supposed to be a very, very surprising feature of the "deep structure" (p. 6) of GTR: namely that according to the deep structure, nothing physically real changes. This, and only this, is the claim I seek to demolish. Even if I succeed, much of interest may be found in the disjecta membra of Professor Earman's paper.
"Thoroughly Modern McTaggart: Or What McTaggart Would Have Said If He Had Learned the General Theory of Relativity," Philosophers' Imprint Vol. 2, No. 3 (August 2002):

Tim Maudlin is Professor of Philosophy at Rutgers University.

Tim Maudlin Let's begin with what we agree on. Earman rejects the original McTaggart's A-series/B-series argument. He agrees that if one means by a "block universe" only a universe which can, in its entirety, be modeled by a single 4dimensional manifold with Lorentz metric, then a block universe can contain real physical change. This is, I think, the common sense view. The sort of models of the GTR we are most familiar with, the solutions of the Einstein Field Equations, represent worlds in which things change: stars collapse, perihelions precess, binary star systems radiate gravitational waves and increase their rate of spin. The representation, as a mathematical object, does not change, but that's just because no mathematical object changes. As Earman approvingly paraphrases Savitt: to have a picture of animation, one doesn't have to provide an animated picture. But more than that is here conceded. Earman characterizes the common sense argument for physical change in the GTR as
based on a naively realistic reading of the surface structure of the theory-tensor, vector, and scalar fields on manifolds. But this naive reading must be radically modified if GTR is to count as a deterministic theory, and the modification undercuts the common sense picture of change by freezing the dynamics. [p. 7]

Thoroughly Muddled McTaggart definition of an observable in GTR, which I dub the "Observables Argument". I will treat these two arguments separately, since they rely on different principles. The Hamiltonian Argument The Hamiltonian Argument derives from the work of Dirac on the "constrained Hamiltonian" formalism for presenting a physical theory. Earman presents this formalism and its interpretation very compactly. I would like to explicate the leading ideas in a somewhat different and, I think, more intuitive way. I will not touch on many of the technical details which, I think, play no essential role in understanding the final result. Let us then approach the Hamiltonian argument in a series of steps. First, we are to cast the GTR in Hamiltonian form. We then notice that, so cast, the dynamics of the theory appears to be indeterministic. Next we consider similar cases in which apparent indeterminism arises because of a "gauge freedom" of the theory. We review a standard method for removing this indeterminism by "quotienting out" the gauge freedom in the phase space of the theory. Applying this standard method to the GTR does indeed restore the determinism of the theory—but at a price. The price is that the dynamics of the theory becomes "pure gauge"; that is, states of the mathematical model which we had originally taken to represent physically different conditions occurring at different times are now deemed equivalent since they are related by a "gauge transformation". We find that what we took to be an "earlier" state of the universe is "gauge equivalent" to what we took to be a "later" state. If gauge equivalent states are taken to be physically equivalent, it follows that there is no physical difference between the "earlier" and the "later" states: there is no real physical change. The key step to this argument lies in the technique for 2

So whatever the new threat to change is supposed to be, it does not appear in the "naive reading". The new problem is not to be founded, for example, on the absence of a preferred foliation of space-time into instantaneous spaces, since no such foliation exists in the "naive reading". Rather, the problem only appears when the GTR is recast in a way somewhat different from its usual presentation. There are two wholly distinct arguments for this new "problem of change" for GTR. One argument involves rewriting the GTR Hamiltonian form, which I will call the "Hamiltonian Argument". The other turns on the proper

such that E = -grad Φ . as well as their conjugate momenta. In order to understand the nature and prima facie justification of this apparatus. we expect the dynamics here to be deterministic: each point in phase space will belong to a unique trajectory which 3 Thoroughly Muddled McTaggart satisfies the equations of motion. We may want to add the distribution of electric charge and its flux to this state. We begin with a Hamiltonian function that. A mathematical operation changing one pair of potentials into another that yields the same fields is a gauge transformation.∂A/c ∂t and B = curl A. Generically. The freedom to choose among gauge-equivalent potentials is not a physical degree of freedom: it rather results from the fact that we have many distinct mathematical objects all of which represent the same physical state. The justification for this terminology is clear: since the fields are taken to be the fundamental ontology. Each point in the phase space specifies the complete global distribution of the electric and magnetic fields. it is well known that if a classical electromagnetic field satisfies Maxwell's equations. Now. For if the original dynamics implies that a state of the electromagnetic field E0B0 will evolve. (This gives the free field. into E1-B1. we should automatically expect that (unless something is done). The net result of all this is that the history of the entire system is now represented by a trajectory through phase space. in which case there will be constraints between the field values and the charge densities. We then construct a phase space of the system. It is equally well known that the relation between the potentials and the fields is many-one: different scalar and vector potentials yield the very same electric and magnetic fields. The complete electromagnetic state of the universe at some moment is specified by the values of the electric and magnetic fields at every point of space at that moment. Without any further ado. it is best to begin on familiar territory: gauge freedom in classical electromagnetic theory. which solves Hamilton's equations. the state of the universe changes deterministically under this dynamics. roughly. And since the development of the electromagnetic field in the original (Maxwell) theory was deterministic. parameterized by time. together with their first derivatives. after a period of time.) Maxwell's equations then provide the dynamics of this system: they specify how the electric and magnetic fields evolve through time. the dynamics in terms of the potentials ought to be indeterministic.Tim Maudlin removing indeterminism by quotienting the phase space. then we should expect the new dynamics only to demand that a pair . specifies the total energy of the system. potentials that are gauge equivalent are taken to represent the very same physical state of affairs. Now suppose we wish to formulate the dynamics of the theory in terms of the potentials rather than the fields. but these complications are not of the moment here. then the field can be represented by vector and scalar electromagnetic potentials. The time evolution of the system is specified by Hamilton's equations: the rate of change of any of the canonical variables is given by a partial differential of the Hamiltonian. If we take the ontology of Maxwellian electrodynamics at face value. we get a picture like this. and the potentials themselves are said to be gauge equivalent. We can reformulate this theory in Hamiltonian form as follows. A and Φ.

but a constraint that can be met by many different trajectories which originate at the same state. specified in terms of the potentials.2 Formulating the dyAn example from a text I pulled off my shelf (Classical Electromagnetic Radiation by J. all of which represent the same disposition of the electric and magnetic fields. the dynamics should now manifest itself as a constraint on the evolution of the potentials.e. and so one expects the determinism of the field dynamics to imply determinism of the dynamics of the potentials. Clearly. should be able to evolve into any of a set of gauge-equivalent final states. 113): Now. That is: given a Hamiltonian. There are many such possible conditions for the gauge. That is. to choose among different gauge-equivalent potentials) at any time. In this case. We therefore say that the field vectors are invariant to gauge transformations. one would begin by constructing a phase space such that each point represents a complete global specification of the scalar and vector potentials and their conjugate momenta.Tim Maudlin of potentials which yields (by the equations given above) E0B0 ought to evolve into some pair of potentials which yields E1-B1. p. Once the gauge is fixed. In practice. What is one to do about this unphysical indeterminism? There are at least three options: uniquely determined. And all of this holds mutatis mutandis if one were to try construct a Hamiltonian formulation of classical electromagnetic theory in terms of the scalar and vector potentials rather then in terms of the electric and magnetic fields. Marion [New York: Academic Press. Because of the arbitrariness in the choice of gauge. And what one should expect. before writing down or solving a single equation. there is a one-one correspondence between states of the fields and states of the potentials. All of this is quite uncontroversial and is presented with little comment in the standard texts. it is the field quantities and not the potentials that possess physical meaningfulness. we have no reason to expect the dynamics to pick out one of these pairs over any gauge-equivalent pair. one will regard this indeterminism as completely unphysical: it arises solely from the freedom to choose different gauges (i. which go by names like Lorentz gauge and Coulomb gauge. we are free to impose an additional constraint on A. is that the resulting dynamics will be indeterministic: many trajectories through a given point should be solutions to Hamilton's equations. But since many different pairs of potentials yield E1B1. 4 . then the vector is 2 Thoroughly Muddled McTaggart namics of electromagnetic theory in terms of potentials rather than fields will yield an indeterministic dynamics. the apparent indeterminism is removed by gauge-fixing: specifying an additional condition on the scalar and vector potentials such that exactly one member of each set of gauge-equivalent potentials meets the condition. One typically picks a gauge so as to make the particular problem at hand more mathematically tractable. which indeterminism arises solely from the gauge freedom and may be eliminated by fixing gauge. 1965]. but if both the curl and the divergence of a vector are specified. The development of the state of the universe would be represented by a trajectory through this A-Φ phase space. We may state this in other terms: a vector is not completely specified by giving only its curl. that is they are gauge invariant. And so long as one continues to regard the basic ontology of the theory as the electric and magnetic fields. A given initial state. it is to our advantage to make a choice for div A that will provide a simplification for the particular problem under consideration. M. it is obvious that the apparent indeterminism of the dynamics is merely a consequence of the gauge freedom and does not represent any real physical indeterminism.

say. Finally. but the prima facie indeterminism can just be ignored. Nor should one overlook the fact that none of these formal tricks are really necessary to maintain one's belief in the fundamental determinism of the theory. one is automatically guaranteed that each physical state will correspond to exactly one gauge orbit. then one knows that the dynamics of that ontology is deterministic. One can use the gauge freedom to make particular problems more tractable. recognizing the existence of multiple solutions from the same initial state as due to gauge freedom. one could frame the dynamics in terms of the potentials and admit any trajectory that satisfies Hamilton's equations as a solution. in which multiple points correspond to the same physical state. each point of which corresponds to a gauge orbit in the original space. And again. Option 3: Quotienting Suppose one begins with an "inflated" phase space. one should not overlook that fact that quotienting may be a more difficult mathematical matter than. Quotienting has certain formal advantages over gauge fixing as a way to recover a deterministic dynamics. For if two gauge-equivalent points in the inflated phase space meet the gauge condition. After all. one can construct a new phase space. the gauge conditions specify the divergence of A and the value of Φ at spatial infinity. That is. In contrast. if one regards the fields as the real ontology. there is good reason to believe that quotienting will restore the determinism. And if some physical state has no representation that meets the gauge condition. since the orbits by definition contain all the points in the phase space that represent the state. one could cut down the space of potentials by adding an additional gauge condition: one can pick a gauge. fixing gauge. but gets an indeterministic dynamics when casting it into Hamiltonian form. but the liberty of choosing the gauge could make the problem at hand more mathematically tractable. One might wonder why one would go to the trouble of inflating the phase space by working in terms of the potentials and then commensurately shrinking the phase space by fixing gauge. these conditions will hold if. . The new phase space is the quotient of the old one by the equivalence classes. when one fixes gauge one requires that each distinct physical state have exactly one representation in the "inflated" variables which meets the gauge condition. one expects the dynamics on the new phase space to be deterministic if the theory one started with was deterministic. In the case of electromagnetism. Of course. then when one fixes gauge one will lose the power to represent some physical possibilities. all of which are gauge equivalent and so represent the same physical state. As we have seen. And suppose one has a clear formulation of the conditions in 5 Thoroughly Muddled McTaggart which a pair of points in the phase space are gauge equivalent. and one sees the gauge freedom that comes along with switching to the potentials. then the dynamics may not determine which of these points the trajectory of the system will pass through. for example. Then one can form equivalence classes of points in the phase space. The phase space will thereby be reduced and—if there is a unique pair of potentials that meets the gauge condition for each state of the electromagnetic field—one would expect the dynamics on this reduced phase space to again be deterministic. Option 2: Fix Gauge As discussed above. intuitively.Tim Maudlin Option 1: Ignore It The simplest option of all is just to disregard the indeterminism once one has recognized its source. Call these equivalence classes gauge orbits. So if one has a deterministic theory to begin with.

It is hard to imagine what could recommend this course of interpretation. That is. One could. for some reason or other. one might conclude that the dynamics needs to be supplemented to render it deterministic again: after all. and repeat until no more states are added. one might take the indeterminism in the dynamics of the potentials to reflect real physical indeterminism. for example. ignoring the merely apparent indeterminism which inflation creates. But by clever quotienting. the resulting dynamics is deterministic. Democritean atoms: the atoms can. is always available. it is always possible to make it work and so render a theory deterministic. we would expect the laws to admit of solutions that agree for some time and then diverge. we can remove this indeterminism. say. a single initial state can then evolve in many different ways. But once the technique of quotienting becomes familiar. suppose one is given a phase space and a Hamiltonian. assign the whole phase space to a single gauge orbit. when one quotients by them. Begin with some initial state. one then concludes that all the states in an given orbit represent the same physical state: the "apparent" differences among the states arise only from different choices of gauge. from time to time. The resulting dynamics is certainly deterministic. this manifests itself in certain freely specifiable functions that appear when one solves the dynamical equations. Option 1. (Typically. Any amount of seeming indeterminism in a dynamics can be removed by this expedient. where one accepts the basic field ontology and regards the scalar and vector potentials as mere mathematical conveniences. In that case. there is a temptation to turn this whole process on its head. This is true in classical electrodynamics. and one's belief that it might have been different from what it is. Intuitively. one thinks that the true physical dynamics ought to be deterministic. One danger arises because. so that the quotiented phase space has but a single point. so that classically "gauge equivalent" potentials represent distinct physical states. Or take an only slightly less extreme example. then all bets are off. the original dynamics is couched in term of the fields rather than the potentials. but at a heavy price: one would have to abandon both one's belief that the physical state of the universe changes. but rather postulates the "gauge orbits" in such a way as to render the dynamics deterministic. If we cast this dynamics on a phase space. in principle. So one is confident about how to interpret the "indeterminism" in the dynamics that arises for the potentials in electromagnetic theory (whether that dynamics be in Hamiltonian form or in standard differential equations) because of what one accepts from the outset about the basic ontology of the theory. This topsy-turvy use of quotienting contains several dangers. Repeat the process for all the states in this class. Or more likely. then form the class of all the states that this state could evolve into or from which it could have evolved. Having so determined the gauge orbits. one does not begin with a clear notion of gauge equivalence.) And suppose that. If one were to become convinced that the potentials were physically real. swerve. Begin with a stochastic dynamics for. and suppose that the resulting dynamics is not deterministic. Then one might well be tempted to render the dynamics deterministic by finding equivalence classes of 6 Thoroughly Muddled McTaggart phase points such that. That is.Tim Maudlin once one has seen that the phase space is inflated so that different trajectories can correspond to the same course of physical events. if boring: the universe has only one physical state available to it and so always remains in that state. What we will end up with is the set of all states that have a . Notice that our whole discussion up to this point is predicated on the assumption that one has an antecedent understanding of gauge equivalence and gauge freedom.

irrespective of how those atoms are disposed. Consider a solution to the EFE's that contains two clocks (figure 1).Tim Maudlin certain number of the various types of atoms. then. Now suppose we want to cast the GTR into a Hamiltonian form. both formally correct and completely crazy. Solutions to the Einstein Field Equations are four-dimensional manifolds. Classical mechanics and classical electrodynamics are formulated in space-times with absolute simultaneity. the problem of gauge freedom only infects the instantaneous states: the states in a gauge orbit are all representations of the same instantaneous state. at least in typical applications.) We are immediately faced with a difficulty. in each of which the clocks indicate the same time. but no such state will ever change in time. which can in many ways serve the role of instantaneous states. and so there is no unproblematic notion of the instantaneous state of the universe. of course. This solution can be "split up" into a stack of instantaneous states in various ways. There will be alternative possible physical states. . the fundamental problem when dealing with the GTR is that the four-dimensional solutions to the field equations do not come equipped with anything like absolute simultaneity. Conditions for determinism are most easily stated for globally hyperbolic space-times. The dynamics will again be deterministic but "frozen": no system ever leaves its "gauge orbit". and the physical state on such a surface. (Why would we want to do this? There is some reason to hope that it might help when searching for a quantized version of the theory. but such foliations are by no means unique. For if we blindly demand determinism from quotienting.e. Now quotient out with respect to these sets of states. surfaces that every inextendible timelike curve intersects exactly once. If we are sure that the dynamics of some theory ought to come out deterministic. but perhaps in a rather nonsensical way. and the way that the surface is embedded in the space-time. We may foliate a globally hyperbolic space-time by families of Cauchy surfaces. If we specify the intrinsic curvature of such a surface. Points in phase space represent these global instantaneous states. Let's apply all this to the GTR. deterministic. Now. We can now depict the solution as a succession of global states. and a trajectory though phase space represents the history of the universe as a succession of such states. we would reject the "deterministic" dynamics for the simple reason that we see particles moving around and changing position: the world is not frozen. i. but otherwise there is no very compelling reason. Furthermore. then there is typically a unique maximal globally hyperbolic 7 Thoroughly Muddled McTaggart space-time consistent with that data. One obvious way is by the foliation depicted in figure 2. What possible grounds for believing that the world is deterministic could make rational the wholesale rejection of all sense experience? We must. and so there is a clear-cut notion of the instantaneous state of the universe. And in the freedom to foliate lies the key to the Hamiltonian Argument. be very judicious in our use of the topsyturvy method. it can certainly meet our demand. We begin with the idea that the GTR is. inhabited by different numbers or different sorts of particle. If we lived in a such a Democritean world. Such space-times admit of Cauchy surfaces. All of this is. which is the history of the universe. then we had best keep careful track of our grounds for that belief and of the point where some faux indeterminism has entered our mathematics. indeed. Thus a deterministic dynamics over the gauge orbits yields a deterministic succession of instantaneous states over time.

. If we use the foliation of figure 3. i. we can begin to apply the Hamiltonian formalism. and each point on the trajectory will contain clocks that indicate the same time. Once we have a foliation.Tim Maudlin . states of Cauchy surfaces. such that each . Thoroughly Muddled McTaggart But the very same solution can also be foliated as in figure 3: t'3 t'2 t'1 figure 1 t'0 t4 figure 3 t3 t2 t1 figure 2 8 Now in each "instantaneous" state the left-hand clock is ahead of the right-hand clock. then the complete fourdimensional solution will be represented by a trajectory through the phase space.e. then the very same solution will be represented by a completely different trajectory. This is just as legitimate a way to carve up the model as figure 2. If we use the foliation of figure 2. The points in phase space will represent instantaneous states.

we can make a prediction: casting the GTR into Hamiltonian form will yield a theory with an indeterministic dynamics. if one likes. And this. But we also understand the source of the indeterminism: it comes from forcing the GTR into the Procrustean bed of the Hamiltonian formalism.e. this slicing will yield a trajectory through the phase space. And in general. these two trajectories in phase space will have no points in common. at all times prior to t0) but later diverges. wandering over to the region of phase space occupied by the figure 3 slicing. We can also foliate the solution as in figure 4. we have to import a foliation into our solutions to the EFE's. but all of these trajectories. But we can immediately see a problem for determinism: the trajectory one gets from the figure 4 slicing agrees precisely with the trajectory . with Cauchy surfaces that agree with the figure 2 foliation early but morph into the figure 3 slices later on: Thoroughly Muddled McTaggart from the figure 2 slicing at t0 (and. in turn. Given the initial state on a Cauchy surface like t0. So it should come as no surprise at all that when we put the GTR into Hamiltonian form we get an apparently indeterministic dynamics. the complete trajectory through phase space up to some time does not determine the future trajectory for the simple reason that the foliation of the space-time up to that point does not determine the foliation later on. the GTR admits of a unique maximal global solution. and slicings that agree to a point and then diverge yield trajectories which agree to a point and then diverge. and the complete trajectory will correspond to the complete four-dimensional solution. represent the same four-dimensional solution. How should we deal with this? 9 t''3 t''2 t''1 t''0 figure 4 Again. But we equally see that this indeterminism is completely phony: it has nothing to do with any real physical indeterminism. But now comes the critical observation. It is the arbitrary nature of the foliation that makes the resulting trajectory through phase space somewhat arbitrary. Different slicings yield different trajectories through phase space. In order to do so. So before we have written down a single equation. yield dynamical indeterminism. in their entirety. i. Obviously. a foliation that has no basis in the GTR itself.Tim Maudlin point on the trajectory contains clocks that indicate different times. is a consequence of the fact that we have arbitrarily chosen the foliation from among the infinitude of ways of splitting the solution into Cauchy slices. Carving up that single solution by different foliations yields different trajectories through phase space. .

then one could try to eliminate the apparent indeterminism by fixing gauge. just as we always thought all along. symmetries under Lorentz boosts. Any canonical slices would also have to be invariant 10 Thoroughly Muddled McTaggart under those symmetries. It is easy to see that the suggested method would indeed foliate the space. This could be done in two ways. we could. All of the different trajectories through phase space that are solutions to the dynamical equations represent the very same complete four-dimensional spacetime. but there can be no condition that picks out a unique foliation of Minkowski space-time on account of its symmetries (e. so the hypersurfaces need not all be Cauchy surfaces. So no generic condition can pick out a unique foliation of all of the models of the GTR. the method would generate the complete slicing of figure 2. and that no timelike curve would intersect any of the hypersurfaces of the foliation more than once. this sort of "gauge fixing" would help solve the indeterminism problem: since the initial data would be consistent with a unique global foliation that satisfies the constraint. rotations. Changing to the Hamiltonian formalism gives us no new insight at all into the basic ontology or dynamics of the theory. such a condition might exist (e. The idea is pretty straightforward: one would expect. but in certain cases one could imagine how it might go: given one Cauchy surface (call it t0). since one is using the metrical structure of the space-time to determine the slicing. In addition. although it would work in some cases. Minkowski spacetime. this means formulating some constraint on the way the space-time is foliated.. is a vacuum solution to the EFE's. the magnitudes in the space-time evolve deterministically: the universe may expand.. If one does not want to just ignore the faux indeterminism of the Hamiltonian form of the theory (if. but clearly no such generic condition exists. Such a project will be mathematically quite non-trivial.Tim Maudlin Reviewing the options above. for example. This would require discovery of some condition that exactly one foliation of any space-time can fulfill. In any case. binary star systems may speed up their rotations. and similarly for i negative. not a practical suggestion. 3 . namely (given the restriction to maximal globally hyperbolic space-times) none. The theory in Hamiltonian form represents no more physical indeterminism than there is in the EFE's. would not solve the generic problem of fixing a foliation into Cauchy surfaces. but one does know the metrical structure until one has solved the EFEs. one would not get diverging trajectories through phase space that correspond to The suggestion here. and given the slice t'0 of figure 3 it would generate the slicing of figure 3. One way would be to find some method for canonically foliating a space-time.) So we are here making an abstract point about gauge-fixing. simply ignore it. (Gauge fixing in electrodynamics can make solving the equations easier since the gauge constraint—e. perihelions may precess.g.g. first of all. and no initial Cauchy slice would generate the slicing of figure 4. for example. there might be a unique foliation in which a background radiation field is homogeneous and isotropic on every slice). using the so-called lapse function and shift vectors. for example. so that diverging foliations that yield diverging trajectories no longer exist. and translations). In certain cases. using a past-directed curve. Furthermore. the method is impractical as a means to solving the EFEs. that given the slice t0 in figure 2.3 Or there are other ways one could go about this. fixing the divergence of A—can be specified before the solution is known. but no slices exists that are invariant under them all.g. and the physical magnitudes in the space-time evolve deterministically. In practice. A more promising approach is this: find a condition that given a single Cauchy surface as data then induces a unique foliation of the space-time. let the slice ti (i a positive real) be the locus of all points p in the space-time such that the maximal future-directed time-like curve from t0 to p is of proper relativistic length i. it makes quantization more difficult).. but one is not guaranteed that each inextendible timelike curve would intersect every hypersurface.

But if one has fallen in love with the "constrained Hamiltonian formalism" and one has solved other faux indeterminism problems (as in electromagnetism) by quotienting. Only then is one assured that the states along a trajectory will belong to the same gauge orbit no matter what foliation is used to generate the trajectory. say. if we are free to foliate. since all of the states along every trajectory have to belong to the same gauge orbit. We begin with apparent dynamical indeterminism: the dynamical equations permit different solutions with the same initial data so that. no matter how the clock seems to have its hands oriented. as we will see. and they might cause problems for. so one can say that according to one trajectory S0 evolves into S1 five minutes later. we would come to the conclusion that.e. then the physical state of a clock does not really change as it comes to indicate different times. But that has nothing to do with indeterminism. it is always in precisely the same physical state: the "change" is merely apparent. not real. according to Earman. from a millisecond after the Big Bang to a minute before the Big Crunch. since there is a common universal time in all models. These claims are. One then quotients by the complete gauge equivalence classes (the gauge orbits). McTaggart—or more prop11 . for example. i. then one might be tempted to try this route. then the state on t0 could evolve into t3 (as in figure 2). In the technical terminology. while t''3 has clocks that indicate different times: these are physically distinct states. And so what holds for the clock would have to hold for the universe as a whole: its physical state never changes. But if the source of the apparent indeterminism is the The problem is most easily stated for a case like electromagnetism done in terms of potentials. So the quotienting solution would have to declare that the state on t3 and the state on t''3 are gauge equivalent. while according to the other trajectory it evolves into S1' five minutes later. but according to another allowable trajectory S0 evolves instead into S'1 and never enters S1. this solution will be a complete disaster. By similar argumentation. according to one allowable trajectory initial state S0 evolves into state S1. or course. not hard to see that if one is going to restore determinism by quotienting. But this is crazy: t3 has two clocks that indicate the same time. But there lies disaster. so if t3 and t''3 are really the same physical state. Recall the basic strategy of quotienting. So both ignoring the apparent indeterminism and fixing gauge appear to be viable solutions to the indeterminism "problem". Of course. It is. there would still be distinct trajectories through phase space that correspond to the same global solution because they are generated from different initial Cauchy surfaces (like t0 and t'0 above). but it could equally well evolve into t''3 (as in figure 4) depending on how we foliate. As we have seen. that they are merely mathematically distinct ways of expressing the very same physical state. reducing the phase space and restoring determinism.4 This apparent indeterminism could be removed by declaring that S1 and S'1 are really physically identical states: they are gauge equivalent. rather silly—but they are precisely the claims that. the constrained Hamiltonian formalism reveals about the deep structure of the GTR. 4 Thoroughly Muddled McTaggart freedom to foliate the space-time. Even more damning is this: the left-hand clock on state t3 indicates a different time than the left-hand clock on t''3. Since in the GTR there is no such common universal time (introducing a universal time function is equivalent to picking a foliation) things are not so simple. quantization. The solution to the apparent indeterminism is then to make S1 and S1' gauge equivalent. in fact. the dynamics of the theory is pure gauge.Tim Maudlin the same solution merely because the foliations diverge. then the gauge orbits have to contain every state on every Cauchy surface in a solution to the EFE's.

since he is at pains to argue that the "frozen time" results are not "merely formal tricks or artifacts of the constrained Hamiltonian formalism" (p. classical electromagnetic theory: the "gauge transformations" so identified really would be the intuitively correct gauge transformations. Dirac suggested that "the gauge transformations be identified as the transformations generated by the first class constraints. There is real physical change because the physical states on the different Cauchy surfaces are different (i. It is here that the method is turned topsy-turvy: instead of starting with an understanding of which points in phase space represent the same state. Karel Kuchar. It is only proper to note that Earman did not construct these arguments for the unreality of change: Dirac devel12 Thoroughly Muddled McTaggart oped the abstract form of the constrained Hamiltonian formalism. for example. It is. But generalizing from this sort of example that we should always identify transformations generated by constraints in the Hamiltonian as gauge transformations between physically equivalent states is a dangerous business. only according to the way of Seeming is there change. the observation of precisely such changes that provides our evidence for the theory. 9). since each such state is compatible with exactly the same maximal globally hyperbolic solution to the EFE's. And the freedom to foliate provides the perfectly comprehensible answer. say.Tim Maudlin erly Parmenides—is vindicated: according to the way of Truth. if not identical. as we have seen.. and more importantly. Any interpretation which claims that the deep structure of the theory says that there is no change at all—and that leaves completely mysterious why there seems to be change and why the merely apparent changes are correctly predicted by the theory—so separates our experience from physical reality as to render meaningless the evidence that constitutes our grounds for believing the theory. 8). he proposes to derive "similar. Earman seems to feel the force of these objections. I only hope ˇ to have made clear why this particular result is to be expected if the GTR is put in Hamiltonian form. the universe is ever One and Unchanging. So the only real question is not that the constrained Hamiltonian formalism (interpreted as Earman suggests) is yielding nonsense in this case. This would be significant. But that does not make them all physically equivalent: otherwise we get an immediate argument from determinism to No Real Change. non-isomorphic). the rate of expansion of the universe. since my argument so far has been that the problems arise from using the (3+1) formulations: it is precisely a foliation that one needs to turn a four- . After all. indeed. Now there is an attenuated sense in which the state on every Cauchy surface in a solution of the EFE's is the same: each such state implicitly represents everything that happens at all times. the collapse of stars. even if each surface (together with the EFE's) implies the same global solution. 9). makes exactly the same point. but why it is yielding nonsense. the red shift of light coming out of a gravitational well. one rather does the dynamics first and then concludes from some formal feature of the dynamics that two points represent the same physical state.e. where the intended interpretation is that two points of the phase space Γ which are connected by a gauge transformation are to be regarded as representing the same physical state" (p. And we can see why the topsy-turvy method would work for. results in the spacetime setting rather than the (3+1) Hamiltonian formulations" (p. It is also only proper to note that criticisms of this use of Dirac's method are not original: as Earman notes. how could it be otherwise? We know that the GTR is a theory which predicts—and explains—many changes: the precession of planetary orbits. To allay these doubts.

and the amount of disagreement can be accurately predicted using the GTR. And indeed. the ones that provided evidence for the theory in the first place. The only question left is what the observables of the theory are. it's through-the-looking-glass. the moral is to find observables—like the position of the perihelion of Mercury relative to the Sun—that are constructable in a less-thanstraightforward-way rather than concluding that there is no real physical change in the world. To these we now turn. the ones that were predicted by the theory. It will also help a bit to reflect on the way that the GTR can be used in conjunction with other principles to make predictions. Like the quotienting technique. let's start with the sort of prediction that we can make using the GTR. 10). then bring the clocks back together and compare them. if true. One then solves the EFE's to get a full four- . When brought back together. These are the sorts of data that can be put on a Cauchy surface. the clocks will no longer be synchronized. put one on a plane and fly it around the Earth on some specified route. The Observables Argument Earman next takes up the approach suggested by Bergmann for guaranteeing determinism in the GTR. and try to discover some generic characterization of observables that includes these sorts of quantities. The GTR has been used successfully to predict the outcome of the following experiment: take two synchronized atomic clocks.e. So the only way to secure McTaggart's conclusion is to argue that the relative synchronization of the clocks is not an observable!) How is this prediction made? One starts with facts about the size and mass of the Earth. so a fortiori the GTR can be used to predict that things will change. the arguments that Earman rehearses next do not hinge on the same mistakes that sink the Hamiltonian argument—they hinge rather on a completely different set of mistakes. So let's start with a "mixed" prediction and then try to work back to a more "pure" one. To fix ideas. but having gone through the looking glass. we are apparently to accept some Alice-inWonderland logic from this point on. and so on. One might think that. because it secures this result by definition: in order to be an observable. As Earman puts it: "What may not be familiar to most readers is that Bergmann's proposal implies that there is no 13 Thoroughly Muddled McTaggart physical change. (Nota bene: the GTR can be used to make a deterministic prediction about how the synchronization of the clocks will change from the beginning of the experiment to the end. We would expect the observables to include: the position of the perihelion of Mercury after some number of orbits. the angle at which light from a distant star will reach the Earth during an eclipse. since our focus from here on will be the sorts of predictions that can be made from the GTR neat. Bergmann's approach is certain to yield the result that the GTR is deterministic. at least with respect to all observables. 9). But instead we are given an abstract characterization of observables that has as a consequence that none of the things that were actually observed and measured and brought forward as evidence for the theory were observable at all! This isn't just topsy-turvy. the amount by which light from the Sun is redshifted when it reaches the Earth.Tim Maudlin dimensional relativistic space-time into a (3+1) dimensional object. And we should expect that these observables will change: the perihelion of Mercury will advance at a predictable rate. no change in his observable quantities. at least not for those quantities that are constructable in the most straightforward way from the materials at hand" (p. i. a quantity must be "unequivocally predictable from initial data" (p. So one might expect that we would start with these sorts of observables.

even though we don't solve our equations for it. in the intuitive sense. What we want to say is that some quantities. So when young McTaggart speaks of a "genuine physical magnitude countenanced by the GTR" (p. and one can similarly pick out the trajectory of the stay-at-home clock. The second way to mitigate the problem is to investigate experimental conditions where gravity is the only important factor. In addition to the solution to the EFE's. and predict—from the GTR alone—how far out of synchronization they will be when they meet. The only way to avoid this would be to include in the model a complete physical description of the airplane and of all physical objects that influence the flight of the airplane and then solve for its trajectory. Furthermore. but this is clearly a practical impossibility. So it is a plain fact that the GTR makes deterministic predictions about observable physical magnitudes and about how those magnitudes can change. representing the trajectory of the flying clock.. but even so the first additional bit of information has to be added from the outside. This second principle could be reduced to a purely relativistic one if we used a light-clock (rather than an atomic clock) which can be shown to measure proper time. predicting the apparent position of a star during a total eclipse does not demand significant input from outside the GTR proper. So we need to be a bit careful. one ought to pause: in many cases. e. All of this is pure GTR. one can then pick out a trajectory through the spacetime (by reference to the position of the Earth). in a more realistic case. are observables since we have instruments (clocks or water drops) that allow us to observe them. we have to specify the trajectories of the clocks and have to deploy a principle about what clocks measure. even though the directly observable instruments (the clocks) are not themselves represented in the models of the GTR we actually use. We can solve for the point where they will intersect. 6) and when those magnitudes are characterized as "observables". Note that the relevant trajectory is given relative to the Earth: the plane flies at a certain altitude above the Earth for a certain distance before coming back. One is simply to declare that relativistic quantities like the proper time along a world line. how to represent the trajectory of the flying clock. If we could send our two clocks free-falling along different paths through a gravitational lens. This shortcoming cannot be overcome until we have the resources to represent the physics of the clocks in the models and would probably be mathematically intractable even then. even if we don't include those instruments in our models. such as the proper time along a time-like trajectory. and assuming that the clocks measure the proper time. the observable 14 Thoroughly Muddled McTaggart physical magnitudes (like clock readings) which are most directly relevant to laboratory operations are not represented in the purely relativistic mathematics used to make predictions.g. Now it is evident that this whole procedure is not simply a matter of solving the EFE's.Tim Maudlin dimensional space-time. or the gravitational tidal forces at a point. Knowing the flight plan of the airplane. Or. There are two ways to mitigate this problem. The only real question before us is how Bergmann's seemingly innocuous definition of an observable as any physical magnitude deterministically predictable from Cauchy data (irrespective of whether any instrument can. we can just grant that we can know. are on the one hand predictable from the GTR and on the other hand observable (by means of clocks). But now things get a bit tricky. One can calculate the proper time along these paths. observe it) can possibly . one can predict what they will show when brought back together. then (supposing their initial trajectories are part of the Cauchy data) we could solve for their trajectories using the GTR: they will follow the appropriate time-like geodesics.

The point is not given by a definite description such as the one offered above: the point is not identified by its spacetime relation to the initial hypersurface. and then someone informs us that they have a spacetime point somewhere in the future in mind.. the point is not so identified. or even from data on the entire past of the hypersurface? [p. the Ricci curvature scalar R.e. on Bergmann's criterion. let's take the case discussed above: the initial data include two objects (they may be clocks. How can that be? The trick is how to interpret the phrase "at a spacetime point". We are given the data on the initial surface. Can we deterministically predict the value of the Ricci scalar at the space-time point in the future where the two objects will meet? Evidently. unless the Ricci curvature is constant everywhere to the future of the initial hypersurface. in the first place. In Earman's approach. To fix ideas. In fact. The first candidates for Bergmann observables are local field quantities which are constructed from the metric and its derivatives up to some finite order and which are evaluated at [a] spacetime point. e. It is rather just (magically) given as a point in the "bare" manifold. as a point in the spacetime manifold before any metric has been specified for the manifold. we are in the following situation. identify the point where the relevant geodesics (which originate at the Earth) meet. or by the object that occupies it. i. 10] Thoroughly Muddled McTaggart back the result. From the initial data and the EFE's. So for all intents and purposes. there is no account of how the relevant point could be observationally identified so that the Ricci curvature there could be checked. And even if there were such an account. we could in such a situation neither predict 15 One would initially think that the answer is clearly "yes". So surely this ought to count.. as an observable. in Earman's account there is no story at all about how the relevant point is identified: it is just somehow given. i. we can construct a complete four-dimensional solution. not predictable from initial data. as a point ten miles above the Earth). and then they ask whether we can predict what the Ricci scalar is at that otherwise unidentified point.g. And if we wanted to do the experiment. and find the Ricci scalar at that point. of course. but they provide us with no further information about which point it is. In my presentation. the Ricci curvature at a spacetime point is not observable by Bergmann's criterion. we could construct rockets to be launched from the Earth that would measure the curvature when they meet and transmit . Let's take a careful look at what exactly that means. or by its spacetime relation to any material object (e. And of course. the answer is "yes". But according to the analysis Earman offers. is in the fine print—and the first bit of fine print occurs in the artfully wrought statement cited above: Bergmann's criterion implies that there is no real change. "at least not for those quantities that are constructable in the most straightforward way from the materials at hand". but it does not matter for this example) that are being launched from Earth toward opposite sides of a gravitational lens (such as the Sun). the relevant spacetime point is identified by a definite description: the point where the two geodesics meet.g. Why don't things like the precession of the perihelion of Mercury or the reading of our clocks when they get back together turn out to be observables since they are clearly predictable? The devil.e. Is the value of this quantity at some point to the future of an initial hypersurface predictable from initial data on the hypersurface. no coherent account about how such a point could be identified independently of the metric and contents of spacetime.Tim Maudlin get us into trouble. Now. there is.

) Earman makes this argument using the technical machinery of diffeomorphism invariance. Of course. In particular. At this point. observable. But even if the values of quantities attached to points of the bare manifold were observable in Bergmann's sense. and so predictable). 531-561. was supposed to establish that the GTR is indeterministic because the EFE's only determine a solution from initial data up to a diffeomorphism. What we can identify by observation are the points that satisfy definite descriptions such as "the point where these geodesics which originate here meet". all hands in that debate agreed that if there is any indeterminism. the attentive reader will begin to feel queasy. and they will now intersect at a new point on the "bare" manifold. So if one were to start by reflecting on the logical form of the predictions we actually make using the GTR. No. the Ricci scalar is the same at every point in the future). Choose a diffeomorphism that is the identity on the initial hypersurface and that maps q to p. 21. it is an unobservable indeterminism.g. In this new solution. or if one E. the quantity is the same everywhere. We only would have problems if we could per impossible identify points on the bare manifold as such. since it concerns what happens at particular points of the bare manifold. in conjunction with Bergmann's criterion. a point whose Ricci scalar is identical to that at p in the original solution. and against these sorts of quantities Earman's diffeomorphism argument has exactly zero force. it has to do with the lack of instrumentation by which one can determine the identity of the relevant point. suppose that the Ricci scalar to the future of the initial surface is not everywhere constant. For what we have is just another incarnation of the notorious "hole" argument. it will not be the point where they intersect in the new solution. of course. Studies in the History and Philosophy of Science Vol. The proposed logical form of a "local field quantity" is a quantity attached to a point on the bare manifold. since we can't identify the relevant points by observation. whatever one thinks of that argument (my own views have been expressed ad nauseum elsewhere5). the Ricci scalar at that point is not predictable and so. That argument. Take a solution to the EFE's. by Bergmann's criterion. 5 . but particular points of the bare manifold are not. per se. that data and the EFE's cannot predict the Ricci scalar at p. and choose a diffeomorphism that is the identity map on the initial data surface but not on the point p in the bare manifold. pp. we have no problems. not observable.Tim Maudlin the scalar curvature there (unless. Now "drag" the original solution along the diffeomorphism to get a new solution to the EFE's. So if the spacetime point is only given to us as a point on the bare manifold. The geodesics will be "dragged along" by the diffeomorphism. (Nota bene: the failure of observability has nothing whatever to do with a lack of instrumentation by which one can empirically determine the Ricci scalar. But since this is also a solution of the EFE's from the same initial data. Now that argument is being used. they would not be observable in the normal sense.. if p happens to be the point where the two geodesics intersect in the first solution. in "Substances and Space-Time: What Aristotle Would Have Said to Einstein". 4. and then the indeterminism is used to argue that these quantities are not observables (unless. recall. the Ricci scalar at p will be different from the original: it will now be the value that was formerly at q. of course. to a perfectly risible conclusion. Then there is a point q to the future whose Ricci scalar differs from that of p in the solution. nor could we later empirically determine what the relevant scalar curvature is. Now. And so if we identify the relevant point by the definite description and empirically identify the point by 16 Thoroughly Muddled McTaggart where the two rockets collide.

which obviously inherit the same problems) is a decisive argument that there are no Bergmann observables that are different at different places in spacetime. In succeeding sections of the paper. to no great surprise. for such change requires a subject. Nothing at a spacetime point can change. Thus. At the beginning of our discussion. so one can speak of which of a pair of indications is earlier and which later. and since spacetime points and regions are the only obvious candidates for the subject role in GTR.Tim Maudlin were to start by reflecting on what sorts of things we take to be actually observable in spacetime. the clock) will be "dragged along" to a new part of the bare manifold. and (b) the different places are timelike related to each other.e. and this looks promising: we may ask after the value of a quantity where the two geodesics coincide. And the things that persist through time are typically material objects like clocks or stars or galaxies. There is nothing technically wrong with Earman's argument. Unfortunately. i. then one would not begin with the logical form of a quantity attached to a point of the bare manifold. And in this sense. Earman does not claim that the examination of "local field quantities" (or the "quasi-local field quantities" one gets by integrating the local ones over patches of the bare manifold. This is just a confusion of two rather unrelated uses of the term 'subject'. the GTR allows for B-series change. the subject of change (e.g. But he casts a skeptical eye on the utility of any quantities which are not "attached" to points of the bare manifold (like the value of the Ricci scalar where the geodesics meet): "[I]t is worth remarking that it is not obvious how these unattached quantities could underwrite B-series change. the things that change. But . the subjects of change are not "attached to" bare spacetime points: under an active diffeomorphism.e.. it was agreed that according to the "naive" reading of the GTR. given in the initial data) geodesics meet".e. spacetime points are the ultimate "subjects of predication" in the GTR. and then to show. So even if. Earman's strategy instead is to start with quantities attached to bare points because they "are constructable in the most straightforward way from the materials at hand". i. 10-11)... He has some remarks about so-called "coincidence observables". for the things that change. for the simple reason that a spacetime point has no temporal extension: individual spacetime points are not even candidates for "subjects of change". and that metric allows one to define certain timelike relations among events in the space-time. he never considers anything as simple as "the value of the Ricci scalar where two given (i. it just seems like a rather senseless way to proceed once one reflects on the source of the difficulties it encounters. These are represented by spacetime worms that are identified by their material contents: the spacetime worm that is the clock is the collection of spacetime points that are occupied by the material of which the clock is made. Earman takes up the project of identifying some other "observables" beside his local and quasi-local field quantities. Subjects of change must persist through time so they can have different properties at different times. in some sense. a clock in the GTR can change the time it indicates because (a) it indicates different 17 Thoroughly Muddled McTaggart times at different places in the space-time. these peculiar unattached quantities would seem to remove the subject of change from the picture" (pp. Notice that the subject of the change is a material object—a clock—which is represented by a spacetime worm that has different features at different points. For the models of the GTR are fourdimensional manifolds with a relativistic metric. that these are not Bergmann observables. So let's answer this concern before going forward. it does not at all follow that they are the subjects of change.

the measuring procedure cannot work by verifying that the coincidence of values . at least an intriguing suggestion of the possibility of a moral to our story. if not a moral. It is now a commonplace that there is a deep problem of time that arises when one tries to quantize the GTR. [p. there's fire.. two demonstrably inadequate and the third incomprehensible (at least to me). however. one would get this: Admittedly. is completely obscure. He says the theory is defined on the space "of entire histories or solutions .. One might wonder why Earman would bother with three arguments if he thought that any one of them sufficed to establish the conclusion. So the Observables Argument gets any traction only by considering candidates for observables (values at points of the bare manifold) which are neither the sorts of things one actually uses the GTR to predict nor the sorts of things one would expect—quite apart from diffeomorphism invariance—to be observable. Why a mapping from one complete solution to another—from one complete possible world to another—should even be called "dynamics".. Adjusting his remarks to fit the case of the intersecting geodesics. not because of any intrinsic problem in the theory. The Observables Argument runs on completely different principles from the Hamiltonian Argument. and that this implies a fundamental incompatibility between the GTR and quantum theory. But the whole argument to date has been that complete solutions to the EFE's—complete relativistic histories of the world—can represent worlds in which things change. McTaggart’s puzzling claim was that he had found a problem of time in the purely classical theory. or what it has to do with the physics of the one world we live in. We have shown McTaggart’s worries to be unfounded—but are left with the intriguing possibility that the “problem of time” in quantum gravity is equally chimerical. does in fact take place by separately measuring the [bare manifold position of a point on one geodesic] and the [bare manifold position of a point on the other geodesic]. . I can only admit that I have no first-hand knowledge of the theory and cannot make head nor tail out of Earman's description. 13] Thoroughly Muddled McTaggart to the Einstein field equations.. which implies that the dynamics is implemented not by a mapping from one state to another state in the same solution. So in the end. but from one solution to another solution". Nothing in any of Earman's arguments suggests any difficulty about this procedure.. they fail. Has our encounter with McTaggart yielded any positive results? There is. and by the Assumption these quantities are not fixed by measurement . The principle he seems to be following is: where there's smoke. But sometimes where there's smoke. and then checking for the coincidence. If one casts the GTR 18 Of course. drawn from an entirely different source: the "alternative approach of Ashtekar and Bombelli" (p 15).Tim Maudlin even here things strike him as problematic. The critical Section 4 ends with yet a third observation. For [the positions on the bare manifold] are gauge dependent quantities. The apparent difficulty for change—and therefore for time itself—which Earman’s McTaggart discerns in the GTR is only an artifact of a bad choice of formalism or a bad choice for the logical form of an observable. And as soon as one tries the arguments out on something that one would predict or observe.. there's mirrors. For . we have three arguments against change in the GTR. but it is equally broken-backed. one would not tell where the geodesics coincide in anything like this way: one would tell by sending a rocket along each path and making the measurement when they collide. it remains a bit obscure how the value of this coincidence observable is measured.

Tim doesn't want a competing method. there is. no problem of time or change in the GTR. This might indicate that the method. But however things work out for quantum gravity. the genuine physical magnitudes or "observables" are identified as the gauge invariant quantities. despite its universally acknowledged success in providing a precise and systematic explication of the gauge concept across a vast range of cases. by redirecting our attention away from quantization back to the original theory as a source of various technical problems that might arise. Let's return McTaggart to his final resting place. This research may lead only to a dead end. But in the absence of any competing method for getting a fix on gauge—and I haven't heard a definite competing proposal—you (or Tim) should seriously consider the possibility that your intuitions have to be retrained. Thoroughly Muddled McTaggart (1) At the outset I want to emphasize a point generally accepted in the physics community but largely unappreciated in the philosophy of science community: There is a uniform method for getting a fix on gauge that applies to any theory in mathematical physics whose equations of motion/field equations are derivable from an action principle. p. Newtonian theories and relativistic theories. Henneaux. So McTaggart may have done us a favor after all. it reveals itself in the existence of Hamiltonian constraints. I see no precipice but rather a series of steps that lead to an understanding of the motivation and content of contemporary main-line research in the foundations of classical general relativity theory (GTR) and quantum gravity. 1089). breaks down in the case at hand. then the interpretative problems attending that form of the classical theory will likely arise again in the quantum version. The motivation behind the technical apparatus is to Here is one explicit expression of faith in the generality of the method: "It is well known that all the theories containing gauge transformations are described by constrained systems" (Gomis. all fallwithin the scope of the method. much less that the research is based on absurd ideas. Suppose that the result offends your (or Tim's) intuitions.6 The first step in employing the method is to convert from the Lagrangian form of the theory to the Hamiltonian form. etc. Now apply this method to some theory of physics. If non-trivial gauge freedom is involved in the theory. following Dirac. He takes his explanation to show that the sorts of considerations I adduced in favor of modern McTaggartism lead to a precipice below which lies absurdity. and Pons 1990.Tim Maudlin in Hamiltonian form—as is commonly done—in order to quantize it. but he does want to be able to cherry-pick the results of the constraint formalism. One then proceeds to identify the first class constraints and. In what follows I will confine my comments to four points that lie at the heart of our disagreements. Finally. after all. And if tying "observables" to particular points in the bare manifold makes trouble in the classical version. these constraints are taken to generate the gauge transformation on the Hamiltonian phase space. then we should anticipate difficulties in defining observables in the quantum version. but there is no a priori way to know this. Tim does a brilliant job of explaining the guts of some difficult technical issues. 6 Response by John Earman I am grateful to Tim for posing his disagreements with me in a form that more than matches my attempt to state the issues in a provocative way. John Earman is University Professor of the History and Philosophy of Science at the University of Pittsburgh 19 . I emphasize that any particle theories and field theories.. and let him molder there in peace.

which are point transformations on the Hamiltonian phase space and which map solutions of the Hamilton-Dirac equations onto solutions. One now has to face the issue of how these Lagrangian gauge transformations—which act on the independent and dependent variables of the Lagrangian and which map solutions of the Euler-Lagrange equations onto solutions—are related to the Dirac-Hamiltonian gauge transformations. If this isn't a violation of determinism. Tim's intuitions tell him that some violations of determinism are tolerable. Noether's second theorem implies that the Euler-Lagrange equations of motion are underdetermined—i. such as Einstein GTR. namely. but what this alternative gives isn't so much a rival account of gauge as a different nomenclature. and it sees gauge freedom at work when Noether's second theorem applies. Trying to travel this route with respect to GTR in order to produce a quantum theory of gravity is known as the canonical quantization program. do evolve deterministically. what this means is not just that solutions to the equations of motion can agree on initial data while disagreeing at a later time but also that given any allowed initial value of a dependent variable. It is sometimes said that the kind of indeterminism that threatens GTR is uninteresting because it is unobservable. And it is hard to see any principled way to distinguished tolerable vs. there is a solution of the equations of motion which has the prescribed initial value of the dependent variable but which gives to the dependent variable any value you like at any future time you choose. that is. the consequence that the observables of GTR are "constants of the motion". in the guise of gauge independent quantities. all of the leading research workers in this program (with the one notable exception of Karel Kuchar) accept the consequences of ˇ applying the Dirac formalism to GTR—in particular. it is hard to know what one would be. in other cases. intolerable violations of this kind. there is an apparent breakdown of determinism. (2) In a sense there is an alternative to the Dirac constrained Hamiltonian formalism. The alternative works on the Lagrangian formulation of the theory.e. Since time is normally the or one of the independent variables. when the action is invariant under an infinite dimensional Lie group 20 Response to Maudlin Thoroughly Muddled McTaggart of transformations which depend on arbitrary functions of the independent variables. arbitrary functions of the independent variables show up in solutions to the equations of motion. but now I want to take up Tim's question of why one would want to put GTR in Hamiltonian form. . and in these cases he sees no need to save determinism by appeal to gauge freedom.7 I will return to the alternative Lagrangian approach below. But all the potential violations of determinism covered by the constraint apparatus are of a piece. In some cases the relation between the two concepts of gauge is transparent. the relation is opaque and requires special effort to discern. The underdetermination is overcome if the elements of the invariance group are seen as gauge transformations—as relating different descriptions of the same physical situation.. Furthermore. But this response buys into the gauge interpretation of the theory: the observables of the theory. More on this in (3) and (4) below. The reason that physicists use the Dirac formalism to get a fix on gauge is that they always have one eye cocked towards quantization and because the standard route to quantization goes through the Hamiltonian formulation of a theory. To my knowledge. this response commits one to an ontology and ideology that is quite different from the extant proposals in the philosophical literature.John Earman Tim Maudlin detect when an apparent violation of determinism is merely a faux violation. a consequence that Tim labels as absurd and 7 See my (2002) for a discussion of this issue.

albeit of an indirect sort. Rather. various technical obstructions can block the passage to the reduced phase space. familiar gauge conditions fail to define a transversal and. the philosophy is the same: only Dirac observables (= quantities which are constant along the Dirac gauge orbits or.. loop quantum gravity is a definite theory rather than a wannabe theory. the brute force attempt at quantization is defective.8 I am not giving an argument from authority. In some cases. (3) Leaving now the issues of quantization and eschewing the (3+1)-dimensional Hamiltonian approach in favor of 21 . equivalently. one approach to quantizing a gauge theory is the brute-force method: impose a gauge condition to kill off the gauge freedom and then quantize in that gauge. then I would take these successes to be confirmation of the gauge interpretation of GTR dictated by the Dirac constraint formalism. But whether one is performing reduced phase space quantization or Dirac constraint quantization. Before leaving the issue of quantization of gauge theories I want to emphasize that it is hard to see how the primacy of the Dirac account of gauge can be abandoned. But what is more important is that when a gauge condition does succeed in fixing a global transversal. see Rovelli (1998). What this strongly suggests is that the theoretically desirable technique of quantization of a gauge theory would be to pass to the reduced phase space (where the new phase variables are gauge invariant quantities) and then to perform normal quantization on the resulting unconstrained system.JohnMaudlin Tim Earman disastrous. and it is a theory with notable theoretical success in the form of an explanation of black hole entropy and the prediction of area and volume quantization of space. passes experimental checks. phase functions on the reduced phase space) get associated with quantum observables in the form of self-adjoint operators.9 As Tim mentions. although I do think that philosophers are on dangerous ground when they are dismissive of the prevailing opinions of physicists on matter of interpretation. This approach to quantum gravity takes advantage of a reformulation of classical GTR in terms of a new set of variables (due independently to Abhay Ashtekar and Amitaba Sen) that makes the Hamiltonian constraints easier to handle.e. Unfortunately. 9 The standard reference on quantization of gauge theories is Henneaux and Teitelboim (1992). In contrast to M(ystery)-theory. i. the gauge condition must define a transversal in the constraint surface. namely. 8 Response to Maudlin Thoroughly Muddled McTaggart phase space where all of the Hamiltonian constraints are satisfied). The popular press would have you believe that the only viable approach to quantum gravity is via string theory or M-theory as it is now called. a lower dimensional surface that intercepts each of the gauge orbits (as generated by the first class constraints) exactly once. my point is that interpretations of scientific theories are subject to empirical tests. which consists in promoting the first class constraints to operators on a suitable Hilbert space and then identifying the physical sector of this space in terms of the state vectors that are annihilated by the operator constraints. eventually. what one is getting on the cheap. If the loop formulation of quantum gravity continues to make theoretical progress and. such as Yang-Mills theories. What fixing a gauge means is explained in terms of the geometry of the Dirac constraint surface (the subspace of the Hamiltonian For a review of the loop formulation of quantum gravity. is an isomorphic copy of the reduced phase space which results when the Dirac gauge orbits are quotiented out. and even if the passage is not blocked there remains the fact that the constraints may be too difficult for physicists to solve. But the loop formulation of quantum gravity—which falls within the canonical quantization program—is currently an active research program. This is why Dirac invented a short-cut method referred to as constraint quantization. thus. so to speak.

. I am unrepentant in agreeing with Carlo Rovelli that. but for different reasons. i. and the negative part of the answer they find is that the gauge invariants of GTR do not include Again I would emphasize that the loop formulation of quantum gravity is a self-conscious attempt to accommodate the diffeomorphism invariance of classical GTR as a gauge symmetry. the lesson of the hole argument is (as the Lagrangian approach to gauge tells us) that the spacetime diffeomorphism group is a gauge group of GTR. which consist of a special kind of coincidence of values of two gauge-dependent quantities that go together to form a gauge independent one. First.John Maudlin Tim Earman the 4-dimensional Lagrangian approach. 10 Response to Maudlin Thoroughly Muddled McTaggart local field quantities (whether scalar. Tim feels that this argument should have been put to rest long ago. applying the considerations outlined at the beginning of (2) to GTR leads to the result that the EulerLagrange equations of GTR are underdetermined and. Carlo tries to draw some of the sting of this position by saying that what the theory describes is relative change. My alternative for drawing the sting of the no-evolution view is threefold. But it is remiss of philosophers to refuse to explore its ramifications on the grounds that their philosophy tell them it must be wrong.. i. second.e. The positive part of their answer is that the gauge invariants include (at least) two different sorts of quantities: first. (4) Coming now to the main issue of modern McTaggartism. are not the kind of things whose values. The reactions in the philosophical literature to the hole argument are amazing in terms of their ingenuity and the extravagances they employ. I agree. namely. for it is compatible with taking the history of the universe to be what I dub a D-series. a 22 . and generally they have been skewed because philosophers want to seize the opportunity to ride a favorite hobby horse—a favorite account of identity across possible worlds. what GTR describes is not evolution of the familiar kind. the most immediate of which is that the gauge invariant quantities of the theory must be diffeomorphic invariants. What are such quantities? Generally philosophers don't have an answer because they haven't bothered to ask the question. a favorite account of how language and reference work. etc. or tensor). I am not fond of this way of putting the matter since these partial observables are not gauge independent quantities and. Second. that GTR is apparently an indeterministic theory. thus. a favorite account of essential properties. the answer may be wrong. I ask them to pause for a moment and consider the fact there is an almost universally uniform reaction among practicing general relativists. I note that the form of McTaggartism that emerges from GTR does not support McTaggart's ultimate conclusion that time is unreal. at base. could be experimentally detected. I point out that the gauge interpretation of GTR is compatible with an attenuated kind of change. thus.10 Some philosophers mouth these words but they generally fail to work out the implications of their words. highly non-local quantities. General relativists have asked.e. Tim is right that this is just Einstein's notorious "hole argument" dressed in a new guise. or change of values. in particular. vector. the change over time of observables in the sense of genuine physical magnitudes. the nomenclature changes but the essential conclusions remain the same. the change of "partial observables" with respect to one another. such as volume integrals of local field quantities over all of spacetime. Of course. this answer is interesting because the ontological picture that emerges from it lies outside the ambit of the normal discussion in the philosophy of space and time. say that they hope that M-theory will display this accommodation. String theorist. Even apart from the issue of change and McTaggartism. what I called coincidence events. and. in conversation if not in print.

we should seek them not in the intrinsic physics of classical GTR or quantum gravity but in the representations of the gauge invariant content of solutions to Einstein's field equations in terms of the standard textbook models of fields evolving on manifolds. 2002. http://www. "Getting a Fix on Gauge: An Ode to the Constrained Hamiltonian Formalism." Living Reviews in Relativity.Tim Earman John Maudlin time ordered series of coincidence events with different events occupying different places in the . Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. a good construal of Leibniz's relational account of space is to take him as saying that the Newtonians are welcome to talk about bodies being contained in and moving through space as long as such talk is taken not literally but rather as a way representing the actual and possible relative configurations of bodies.). and C. my major disappointment with Tim's response is really a disappointment with my presentation. I recommend that we don't try to restore normal change and evolution either by changing the theory or by some clever interpretational ploy that rejects or bypasses the gauge interpretation of GTR. Quantization of Gauge Systems (Princeton. Symmetries in Physics. This does not go very far towards restoring normal change since the coincidence events do not consist of the occurrence of a change in a genuine physical quantity. M. What I am suggesting is that a similar representational account be applied to GTR. Pons (1990). for example. J. Third. M. C. " Loop Quantum Gravity. Rather. NJ: Princeton University Press). Teitelboim (1992). Rovelli. and that if it is done in the proper way we can have our cake and eat it too: ordinary talk about change is accommodated in the representations while the gauge interpretation of the theory is respected by recognizing that what these representations are representations of is not of evolution in any ordinary sense. References Earman. Castellani (eds. indeed. For example. Brading and E. it should be familiar from the history of the debates over absolute vs relational accounts of space and time. Such a representational stance is nothing new." to appear in K. "Existence Theorem for Gauge Symmetries in Hamiltonian Constrained Systems'. M. J. and J.. Henneaux. Gomis. 1998. he might be willing to join me on the precipice—a precipice not of absurdity but of a new understanding of old issues. I recommend that if normal change and temporal evolution are wanted. Henneaux. in searching for a way to marry general relativity and quantum mechanics. If I could make Tim feel the excitement I experience when I see how philosophical concerns about time and change intertwine with contemporary research in physics. Classical and Quantum Gravity 7.. 10891096. For what his response reveals is that I failed to convey how the issues surrounding modern McTaggartism are not mere shuttlecocks to be batted back and forth in a philosopher's 23 Response to Maudlin Thoroughly Muddled McTaggart game of badminton. In conclusion. These issues connect directly to decisions that physicists working on the frontiers of research have to make.livingreviews.